Mar 012004
 
Authors: Carl McCutchen

Three months after Fox 31 in Denver aired a segment alleging CSU

sold horses for meat in Europe, the controversy continues.

On Nov. 14, CSU held an auction for 81 horses that were no

longer needed at the university, as per state law requirements.

Approximately 300 people attended the auction, and all 81 horses

were sold at an average of $600 each.

On Nov. 25, 11 days later, Fox 31’s Tom Martino reported that

some of the auction’s horses had been sold indirectly to

slaughterhouses, which then sent the meat to Europe.

CSU has faced the claim that slaughterhouse providers were

buying the auction’s horses.

Martino reported that “killers,” a term described by him as “a

slang given to buyers who turn around and sell horses directly to

slaughterhouses in Texas,” attended the auction and purchased 30

horses.

Will French, a freshman equine science major who attended the

auction, said actual “killers” were not at the auction, but there

were horse traders who purchase horses and sometimes resell them to

slaughterhouses, as well as to dude ranches and other safe

homes.

“These buyers don’t buy horses just for slaughter, but also for

sale to others who would buy the horses for riding animals,

breeding purposes or wherever else the price may merit. These horse

traders, if possible, will not sell to slaughterhouses, because

they can sell the horses for more money to people than if they sell

to slaughterhouses,” French said.

Some organizations believe CSU’s auctioning practices need to

change.

One such organization is the Friends of Horses Rescue and

Adoption, an organization that places horses in adoptive homes.

Bill Stiffler, the organization’s executive director, said his

organization also tries to purchase horses from auctions like CSU’s

and adopt them to good, safe homes.

Stiffler said that he does not blame anyone for horses being

sold to “killers.” He understands that Colorado law requires CSU to

auction off state assets, but he thinks other options should be

explored.

“State assets have to be sold at auction, but CSU is not

maximizing the value of those assets,” he said. “I think the way

they disperse state’s assets needs to be reevaluated.”

Stiffler has since begun negotiations with CSU, state officials

and other organizations to try to find other ways of dispersing

horses.

“CSU is working with us at this stage to resolve and re-look at

the way they disperse their horses,” he said. “In my opinion, CSU

at this time is making a concerned effort to reevaluate what

they’re doing.”

One option Stiffler believes CSU can use to avoid further

controversy is notifying former horse owners to see if they want

the horses back.

Jason Bruemmer, an auction coordinator and an associate

professor of animal sciences, said prior owners of donated horses

either do not want them back or do not have any room to house

them.

“We contact the old owners to see if they want them, but very

few said they wanted them back,” he said. “Very few in the last

auction were donated.”

Bruemmer said CSU tries to avoid putting horses in the wrong

hands, and the university is exploring other options.

“The biggest concern is to sell them legally. Horses are still

livestock, but we try not to take them to the local sale barn,” he

said. “We made every effort to do the right thing.”

He also said that in 2003, CSU began to lease horses instead of

buying them, but the public is not generally aware of this.

“Everybody is under the impression we buy them or they are

donated,” he said.

Bruemmer also said CSU holds auctions only when there are an

abundance of horses whose educational roles have been met.

Dell Rae Moellenberg, media relations specialist for the College

of Agricultural Sciences, said auctions are also held because of

the high cost of keeping so many horses. She said each horse costs

about $155 a month to feed, which is money some taxpayers do not

want to spend.

Stiffler also said he thinks CSU doesn’t do enough to advertise

the auctions to the public.

“They only send out notices to killer buyers,” he said. “They

are not doing a good job to market the auctions. They only run a

classified once every two years.”

Bruemmer said CSU did everything it could to notify people of

the auction.

Moellenberg said CSU purchased advertising, including television

and radio spots, classified ads, created Web pages on CSU’s site,

sent e-mails, posted flyers and issued press releases to mainstream

media, horse magazines and other organizations.

David Batzer, a senior equine science major, said it was hard

not to see advertising for the auction.

“It was hard to miss it as a student. It was all over the equine

science page, front and center, and out at the Equine Center,” he

said. “They tried to get word out for sure.”

Caleb Walker, also a senior equine science major, said that some

students might be discouraged from attending the equine science

program because of the Fox news report.

“I would think uneducated people that saw that might be

dissuaded,” he said. “It really is a great program.”

Walker added that CSU is one of few institutions to offer an

equine science degree.

Another equine science student, freshman Juli Williams, said she

was very upset with the whole ordeal.

“I know myself and my best friend felt degraded by Fox News,”

she said. “We were looked down on; it was really degrading.”

Williams also said she is afraid the program’s image might be

tarnished and other students might turn away from the program

now.

“I have run into people thinking about coming up here, but then

their parents are a little discouraged about them coming,” she

said.

Williams said that despite all of the issues surrounding the

program, she still loves it.

“I think it’s great,” she said. “I love the fact we have the

opportunity to ride and grow.”

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